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Research Challenges in Coupling Artificial Intelligence and Network Management

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Authors Jérôme François , Alexander Clemm , Dimitri Papadimitriou , Stenio Fernandes , Stefan Schneider
Last updated 2022-10-24
Replaced by draft-irtf-nmrg-ai-challenges
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Internet Research Task Force                                 J. François
Internet-Draft                                                     Inria
Intended status: Informational                                  A. Clemm
Expires: 27 April 2023                      Futurewei Technologies, Inc.
                                                        D. Papadimitriou
                                            3NLab Belgium Reseach Center
                                                            S. Fernandes
                                                  Central Bank of Canada
                                                            S. Schneider
                                  Digital Railway (DSD) at Deutsche Bahn
                                                         24 October 2022

  Research Challenges in Coupling Artificial Intelligence and Network


   This document is intended to introduce the challenges to overcome
   when network management problems may require to be couple with AI
   solutions.  On one hand, there are many difficult problems in Network
   Management that to this date have no good solutions, or where any
   solutions come with significant limitations and constraints.
   Artificial Intelligence may help produce novel solutions to those
   problems.  On the other hand, for several reasons (computational
   costs of AI solutions, privacy of data), distribution of AI tasks
   became primordial.  It is thus also expected that network SHOULD be
   operated efficiently to support those tasks.

   To identify the right set of challenges, the document defines a
   method based on the evolution and nature of NM problems.  This will
   be done in parallel with advances and the nature of existing
   solutions in AI in order to highlight where AI and NM have been
   already coupled together or could benefit from a higher integration.
   So, the method aims at evaluating the gap between NM problems and AI
   solutions.  Challenges are derived accordingly, assuming solving
   these challenges will help to reduce the gap between NM and AI.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Conventions and Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   3.  Acronyms  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   4.  Difficult problems in network management  . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  High-level challenges in adopting AI in NM  . . . . . . . . .   8
   6.  AI techniques for network management  . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     6.1.   Problem type and mapping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
       6.1.1.  Sub-challenge: Suitable Approach for Given Input  . .  10
       6.1.2.  Sub-challenge: Suitable Approach for Desired
               Output  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       6.1.3.  Sub-challenge: Tailoring the AI Approach to the Given
               Problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     6.2.   Performance of produced models . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     6.3.   Lightweight AI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     6.4.  AI for planning of actions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
   7.  Network data as input for ML algorithms . . . . . . . . . . .  18
     7.1.  Data for AI-based NM solutions  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  19
     7.2.  Data collection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20
     7.3.  Usable data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
   8.   Acceptability of AI  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
     8.1.   Explainability of Network-AI products  . . . . . . . . .  23
     8.2.   AI-based products and algorithms in production
           systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  24
     8.3.   AI with humans in the loop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  25
   9.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
   10. IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
   11. References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
     11.1.  Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26

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     11.2.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
   Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  32
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  32

1.  Introduction

   The functional scope of network management (NM) is very large,
   ranging from monitoring to accounting, from network provisioning to
   service diagnostics, from usage accounting to security.  The taxonomy
   defined in [Hoo18] extends the traditional Fault, Configuration,
   Accounting, Performance, Security (FCAPS) domains by considering
   additional functional areas but above all by promoting additional
   views.  For instance, network management approaches can be classified
   according to the technologies, methods or paradigms they will rely
   on.  Methods include common approaches as for example mathematical
   optimization or queuing theory but also techniques which have been
   widely applied in last decades like game theory, data analysis, data
   mining and machine learning.  In management paradigms, autonomic and
   cognitive management are listed.  As highlighted by this taxonomy,
   the definition of automated and more intelligent techniques have been
   promoted to support efficient network management operations.
   Research in NM and more generally in networking has been very active
   in the area of applied ML [Bou18].

   However, for maintaining network operational in pre-defined safety
   bounds, NM still heavily relies on established procedures.  Even
   after several cycles of adding automation, those procedures are still
   mostly fixed in the sense that the exact control loop is and all
   possibilities are defined in advance.  They are so mostly
   deterministic by nature or or at least with maximal error bounds
   .Obviously, there have been a lot of propositions to make network
   smarter or intelligent with the use of ML but without large adoption
   for running real networks because it changes the paradigms towards
   stochastic methods.

   ML is a sub-area of AI that concentrates the focus nowadays but AI
   encompasses other areas including knowledge representation, inference
   rule engine, statistical methods or by extension the techniques that
   allow to observe and perform actions on a system.

   It is thus legitimate to question if ML or AI in general could be
   helpful for NM in regards to practical deployment.  This question is
   actually tight with the problems the NM aims to address.
   Independently of NM, ML solutions were introduced to solve one type
   of problems in an approximate way which are very complex in nature,
   i.e. finding an optimal solution is not possible (in polynomial
   time).  This is the case for NP-hard problems.  In those cases,
   solutions typically rely on heuristics that may not yield optimal

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   results, or algorithms that run into issues with scalability and the
   ability to produce timely results due to the exponential search
   space.  In NM, those problems exist, for instance allocation of
   resources in case of service function chaining or network slicing
   among others are recent examples which have gained interest in our
   community with SDN.  Many propositions consist of defining the
   problem as an MILP with some heuristics to reach a satisfactory
   tradeoff between solution quality - computation time and model size/
   dimensionality.  Hence, ML is recognized to be well adapted to
   progress on this type of problem [Kaf19].

   However, all problems of NM are not NP-hard.  Due to real-time
   constraints, some involve very short control loops that require both
   rapid decisions and the ability to rapidly adapt to new situations
   and different contexts.  So, even in that case, time is critical and
   approximate solutions are usually more acceptable.  Again, it is
   where AI can be beneficial.  Actually expert systems are AI systems
   [Ste92] but this kind of systems are not designed to scale with the
   volume and heterogeneity of data we can collect in a network today
   for which the expert system is built thanks to numerous inference
   rules.  In contrast, ML is more efficient to automatically learn
   abstract representations of the rules, which can be eventually

   On one hand Another type of common problem in NM is classification.
   For instance, classifying network flows is helpful for security
   purposes to detect attack flows, to differentiate QoS among the
   different flows (e.g. real-time streams which need to be
   prioritized), etc.  On the other hand, ML-based classification
   algorithms have been widely used in literature with high quality
   results when properly applied leading to their applications in
   commercial products.  There are many algorithms including decision
   tress, support vector machine ir (deep) neural networks which have
   been to be proven efficient in many areas and notably for image and
   natural language processing.

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   Finally, many problems also still rely on humans in the loop, from
   support issues such as dealing with trouble tickets to planning
   activities for the roll-out of new services.  This creates
   operational bottlenecks and is often expensive and error prone.  This
   kind of tasks could be either automated or guided by an AI system to
   avoid human bias.  Indeed, the balance between human resources and
   the complexity of problems to deal with is actually very imbalanced
   and this will continue to increase due to the size of networks,
   heterogeneity of devices, services, etc.  Hence, human-based
   procedures tend to be simple in comparison to the problem to solve or
   time-consuming.  Notable examples are in security where the network
   operator should defend against potential unknown threat.  As a
   result, services might be largely affected during hours

   Actually, all the problems aforementioned are exacerbated by the
   situation of more complex networks to operate on many dimensions
   (users, devices, services, connections, etc.).  Therefore, AI is
   expected to enable or simplify the solving of those problems in real
   networks in the near future [czb20] [Yan20] because those would
   require reaching unprecedented levels of performance in terms of
   throughput, latency, mobility, security, etc.

2.  Conventions and Definitions

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in
   BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

3.  Acronyms

   AI: Artificial Intelligence GAN: Generative Adversarial Network GNN:
   Graph Neural Network LSTM: Long Short-Term Memory ML: Machine
   Learning MLP: Multilayer Perceptron NM: Network Management

4.  Difficult problems in network management

   As mentioned in introduction, problems to be tackled in NM tend to be
   complex and exhibit characteristics that make them candidates for
   solutions that involve AI techniques:

   *  C1: A very large solution space, combinatorially exploding with
      the size of the problem domain.  This makes it impractical to
      explore and test every solution (again NP-hard problems here)

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   *  C2: Uncertainty and unpredictability along multiple dimensions,
      including the context in which the solution is applied, behavior
      of users and traffic, lack of visibility into network state, and
      more.  In addition, many networks do not exist in isolation but
      are subjected to myriads of interdependencies, some outside their
      control.  Accordingly, there are many external parameters that
      affect the efficiency of the solution to a problem and that cannot
      be known in advance: user activity, interconnected networks, etc.

   *  C3: The need to provide answers (i.e. compute solutions, deliver
      verdicts, make decisions) in constrained or deterministic time.
      In many cases, context changes dynamically and decisions need to
      be made quickly to be of use.

   *  C4: Data-dependent solutions.  To solve a problem accurately, it
      can be necessary to rely on large volumes of data, having to deal
      with issues that range from data heterogeneity to incomplete data
      to general challenges of dealing with high data velocity.

   *  C5: Need to be integrated with existing automatic and human

   *  C6: Solutions MUST be cost-effective as resources (bandwidth, CPU,
      human, etc.) can be limited, notably when part of processing is
      distributed at the network edge or within the network.

   Many problems are affected by multiple criteria.  Below is a non-
   exhaustive list of complex NM problems for which AI and/or non-AI-
   based approaches have been proposed:

   *  Computation of optimal paths: packet forwarding is not always
      based on traditional routing protocols with least cost routing,
      but on computation of paths that are optimized for certain
      criteria - for example, to meet certain level objectives, to
      result in greater resilience, to balance utilization, to optimize
      energy usage, etc.  Many of those solutions can be found in SDN,
      where a controller or path computation element computes paths that
      are subsequently provisioned across the network.  However, such
      solutions generally do not scale to millions of paths (C1), and
      cannot be recomputed in sub-second time scales (C3) to take into
      account dynamically changing network conditions (C2).  To compute
      those paths, operations research techniques have been extensively
      used in literature along with AI methods as shown in [Lop20].  As
      such, this problem can be considered as close to big data problems
      with some of the different Vs: volume, velocity, variety, value...

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   *  Classification of network traffic: without loss of generality a
      common objective of network monitoring for operators is to know
      the type of traffic going through their networks (web, streaming,
      gaming, VoIP).  By nature, this task analyzes data (C4) which can
      vary over time (C2) except in very particular scenarios like
      industrial isolated networks.  However, the output of the
      classification technique is time-constrained only in specific
      cases where fast decisions MUST be made, for example to reroute
      traffic.  Simple identification based on IANA-assigned TCP/UDP
      ports numbers were sufficient in the past.  However, with
      applications using dynamic port numbers, signature techniques can
      be used to match packet payload [Sen04].  To handle applications
      now encapsulated in encrypted web or VPN traffic, machine-learning
      has been leveraged [Bri19].

   *  Network diagnostics: disruptions of networking services can have
      many causes.  Identifying the root cause can be of high importance
      when what is causing the disruption is not properly understood, so
      that repair actions can address the root cause versus just working
      around the symptoms.  Further complicating the matter are
      scenarios in which disruptions are not "hard" but involve only a
      degradation of service level, and where disruptions are
      intermittent, not reproducible, and hard to predict.  Artificial
      intelligence techniques can offer promising solutions.

   *  Intent-Based Networking (IBN): Roughly speaking, IBN refers to the
      ability to manage networks by articulating desired outcomes
      without the need to specify a course of actions to achieve those
      outcomes.  The ability to determine such courses of actions, in
      particular in scenarios with multiple interdependencies,
      conflicting goals, large scale, and highly complex and dynamic
      environments is a huge and largely unsolved challenge.  Artificial
      Intelligence techniques can be of help here in multiple ways, from
      accurately classifying dynamic context to determine matching
      actions to reframing the expression of intent as a game that can
      be played (and won) using artificially intelligent techniques.

   *  VNF placement and SFC design: Virtual Network Functions need to be
      placed on physical resources and Service Function Chains designed
      in an optimized manner to avoid use of networking resources and
      minimize energy usage.

   *  Smart admission control to avoid congestion and oversubscription
      of network resources: Admission control needs to be set up and
      performed in ways that ensure service levels are optimized in a
      manner that is fair and aligned with application needs, congestion
      avoided or its effects mitigated.

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5.  High-level challenges in adopting AI in NM

   As shown in the previous section, AI techniques are good candidates
   for the difficult NM problems.  There have been many propositions but
   still most of them remain at the level of prototypes or have been
   only evaluated with simulation and/or emulation.  It is thus
   questionable why our community investigates much research in this
   direction but has not adopted those solutions to operate real
   networks.  There are different obstacles.

   First, AI advances have been historically driven by the image/video,
   natural language and signal processing communities as well as
   robotics for many decades.  As a result, the most impressive
   applications are in this area including recently the generalization
   of home assistants or the large progress in autonomous vehicles.
   However, the network experts have been focused on building the
   Internet, especially building protocols to make the world
   interconnected and with always better performance and services.  This
   trend continues today with the 5G in deployment and 6G under
   definition.  Hence, AI was not our primary focus.  However, AI is now
   considered as a core enabler for the future 6G networks which are
   sometimes qualified as AI-native networks.

   While we can see major contributions in AI-based solutions for
   networking over more than two decades, only a fraction of the
   community was concerned by AI at that time.  Progress as a whole,
   from a community perspective, was so limited and compensated by
   relying on the development of AI in the communities as mentioned
   earlier.  Even if our problems share some commonalities, for example
   on the volume of data to analyze, there are many differences: data
   types are completely different, networks are by nature heavily
   distributed, etc.  If problems are different, they SHOULD require
   distinct solutions.  In a nutshell, network-tailored AI was

   Second, many AI techniques require enough representative data to be
   applied independently if the algorithms are supervised or
   unsupervised.  NM has produced a lot of methods and technologies to
   acquire data.  However, in most cases, the goal was not to support AI
   techniques and lead so to a mismatch.  For example, (deep) learning
   techniques mostly rely on having vectors of (real) numbers as input
   which fits some metrics (packet/byte counts, latency, delays, etc)
   but needs some adjustment for categorical (IP addresses, port
   numbers, etc) or topological features.  Conversions are usually
   applied using common techniques like one-hot encoding or by coarse-
   grained representations [Sco11].  However, more advanced techniques
   have been recently proposed to embed representation of network
   entities rather than pure encoding [Rin17][Evr19][Sol20].

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   An additional challenge concerns the fact that AI techniques that
   involve analysis of networking data can also lead to the extraction
   of sensitive and personally-identifiable information, raising
   potential privacy concerns and concerns regarding the potential for
   abuse.  For example, AI techniques used to analyze encrypted network
   traffic with the legitimate goal to protect the network from
   intrusions and illegitimate attack traffic could be used to infer
   information about network usage and interactions of network users.
   Intelligent data analysis and the need to maintain privacy are in
   many ways that are contradictory in nature, resulting in an arms
   race.  Similarly, training ML solutions on real network data is in
   many cases preferable over using less-realisitic synthetic data
   sets.However, network data may contain private or sensitive data, the
   sharing of which may be problematic from a privacy standpoint and
   even result in legal exposure.  The challenge concerns thus how to
   allow AI techniques to perform legitimate network management
   functions and provide network owners with operational insights into
   what is going on in their networks, while prohibiting their potential
   for abuse for other (illegitimate) purposes.

   Finally, networks are already operated thanks to (semi-)automated
   procedures involving a large number of resources which are
   synchronized with management or orchestration tools.  Adding AI
   supposes it would be seamlessly integrated within pre-existing
   processes.  Although the goal of these procedures might be solely to
   provide relevant information to operators through alerts or
   dashboards in case of monitoring applications, many other
   applications rely on those procedures to trigger actions on the
   different resources, which can be local or remote.  The use of AI or
   any other approaches to derive NM actions adds further constraint on
   them, especially regarding time constraints and synchronization to
   maintain a coherence over a distributed system.

   A related challenge concerns the fact that to be deployed, a solution
   needs to not only provide a technical solution but to also be
   acceptable to users - in this case, network administrators and
   operators.  One challenge with automated solutions concerns that
   users want to feel "in control" and able to understand what is going
   on, even more so if ultimately those users are the ones who are held
   accountable for whether or not the network is running smoothly.
   Those same concerns extend to artificially intelligent systems for
   obvious reasons.  To mitigate those concerns, aspects such as the
   ability to explain actions that are taken - or about to be taken - by
   AI systems become important.

   Beyond reasons of making users more comfortable, there are
   potentially also legal or regulatory ramifications to ensure that
   actions taken are properly understood.  For example,agencies such as

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   the FCC may impose fines on network operators when services such as
   E911 experience outages, as there is a public interest in ensuring
   highest availability for such services.  In investigating causes for
   such outages, the underlying behavior of systems has to be properly
   understood, and even more so the reasons for actions that fall under
   the realm of network operations.

6.  AI techniques for network management

6.1.   Problem type and mapping

   In the last few years, an increasing number of different AI
   techniques have been proposed and applied successfully to a growing
   variety of different problems in different domains, including network
   management [Mus18], [Xie18].  Some of the more recently proposed AI
   approaches are clearly advancements of older approaches, which they
   supersede.  Many other AI approaches are not predecessors or
   successors but simply complementary because they are useful for
   different problems or optimize different metrics.  In fact, different
   AI approaches are useful for different kinds of problem inputs (e.g.,
   tabular data vs. text vs. images vs. time series) and also for
   different kinds of desired outputs (e.g., a predicted value, a
   classification, or an action).  Similarly, there may be trade-offs
   between multiple approaches that take the same kind of inputs and
   desired outputs (e.g., in terms of desired objective, computation
   complexity, constraints).

   Overall, it is a key challenge of using AI for network management to
   properly understand and map which kind of problems with which inputs,
   outputs, and objectives are best solved with which kind of AI (or
   non-AI) approaches.  Given the wealth of existing and newly released
   AI approaches, this is far from a trivial task.

6.1.1.  Sub-challenge: Suitable Approach for Given Input

   Different problems in network management come with widely different
   problem parameters.  For example, security-related problems may have
   large amounts of text or encrypted data as input, whereas forecasting
   problems have historical time series data as input.  They also vary
   in the amount of available data.

   Both the type and amount of data influences which AI techniques could
   be useful.  On one hand, in scenarios with little data, classical
   machine learning techniques (e.g., SVM, tree-based approaches, etc.)
   are often sufficient and even superior to neural networks.  On the
   other hand, neural networks have the advantage of learning complex
   models from large amounts of data without requiring feature
   engineering.  Here, different neural network architectures are useful

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   for different kinds of problems.  The traditional and simplest
   architecture are (fully connected) multi-layer perceptrons (MLPs),
   which are useful for structured, tabular data.  For images, videos,
   or other high-dimensional data with correlation between "close"
   features, convolutional neural networks (CNNs) are useful.  Recurrent
   neural networks (RNNs), especially LSTMs, and attention-based neural
   networks (transformers) are great for sequential data like time
   series or text.  Finally, Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) can
   incorporate and consider the graph-structured input, which is very
   useful in network management, e.g., to represent the network

   The aforementioned rough guidelines can help identify a suitable AI
   approach and neural network architecture.  Still, best results are
   often only achieved with sophisticated combinations of different
   approaches.  For example, multiple elements can be combined into one
   architecture, e.g., with both CNNs and LSTMs, and multiple separate
   AI approaches can be used as an ensemble to combine their strengths.
   Here, simplifying the mapping from problem type and input to suitable
   AI approaches and architectures is clearly an open challenge.  Future
   work SHOULD address this challenge by providing both clearer
   guidelines and striving for more general AI approaches that can
   easily be applied to a large variety of different problem inputs.

6.1.2.  Sub-challenge: Suitable Approach for Desired Output

   Similar to the challenge of identifying suitable AI approaches for a
   given problem input, the desired output for a given problem also
   affects which AI approach SHOULD be chosen.  Here, the format of the
   desired output (single value, class, action, etc.), the frequency of
   these outputs and their meaning SHOULD be considered.

   Again, there are rough guidelines for identifying a group of suitable
   AI approaches.  For example, if a single value is required (e.g., the
   amount of resources to allocate to a service instance), then typical
   supervised regression approaches SHOULD be used.  If classification
   (e.g., of malware or another security issue [Abd10]) instead of a
   value is desired, supervised classification methods SHOULD be used.
   Alternatively, unsupervised machine learning can help to cluster
   given data into separate groups, which can be useful to analyze
   networking data, e.g., for better understanding different types of
   traffic or user segments.

   In addition to these classical supervised and unsupervised methods,
   reinforcement learning approaches allow active, sequential decisions
   rather than simple predictions or classifications.  This is often
   useful in network management, e.g., to actively control service
   scaling and placement as well as flow scheduling and routing.

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   Reinforcement learning agents autonomously select suitable actions in
   a given environment and are especially useful for self-learning
   network management.  In addition to model-free reinforcement
   learning, model-based planning approaches (e.g., Monte Carlo Tree
   Search (MCTS)) also allow choosing suitable actions in a given
   environment but require full knowledge of the environment dynamics.
   In contrast, model-free reinforcement learning is ideal for scenarios
   with unknown environment dynamics, which is often the case in network

   Similar to the previous sub-challenge, these are just rough
   guidelines that can help to select a suitable group of AI approaches.
   Identifying the most suitable approach within the group, e.g., the
   best out of the many existing reinforcement learning approaches, is
   still challenging.  And, as before, different approaches could be
   combined to enable even more effective network management (e.g.,
   heuristics + RL, LSTMs + RL, ...).  Here, further research MAY
   simplify the mapping from desired problem output to choosing or
   designing a suitable AI approach.

6.1.3.  Sub-challenge: Tailoring the AI Approach to the Given Problem

   After addressing the two aforementioned sub-challenges, one may have
   selected a useful kind of AI approach for the given input and output
   of a network management problem.  For example, one may select
   regression and supervised learning to forecast upcoming network
   traffic.  Or select reinforcement learning to continuously control
   network and service coordination (scaling, placement, etc.).
   However, even within each of these fields (regression, reinforcement
   learning, etc.), there are many possible algorithms and
   hyperparameters to consider.  Selecting a suitable algorithm and
   parametrizing it with the right hyperparameters is crucial to tailor
   the AI approach to the given network management problem.

   For example, there are many different regression techniques
   (classical linear, polynomial regression, lasso/ridge regression,
   SVR, regression trees, neural networks, etc.), each with different
   benefits and drawbacks and each with its own set of hyperparameters.
   Choosing a suitable technique depends on the amount and structure of
   the input data as well as on the desired output.  It also depends on
   the available amount of compute resources and compute time until a
   prediction is required.  If resources and time are not a limiting
   factor, many hyperparameters can be tuned automatically.  In
   practice, however, the design space of choosing algorithms and
   hyperparameters is often so large that it cannot be effectively tuned
   automatically but also requires some initial expertise in selecting
   suitable AI algorithms and hyperparameters.

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   This sub-challenge holds for all fields of AI: Supervised learning
   (regression and classification), self-supervised learning,
   unsupervised learning, and reinforcement learning, each are broad and
   rapidly growing fields.  Selecting suitable algorithms and
   hyperparameters to tailor AI approaches to the network management
   problem is both an opportunity and a challenge.  Here, future work
   should further explore these trade-offs and provide clearer
   guidelines on how to navigate these trade-offs for different network
   management tasks.

6.2.   Performance of produced models

   From a general point of view, any AI technique will produce results
   with a certain level of quality.  This leads to two inherent
   questions: (1) what is the definition of the performance in a context
   of a NM application? (2) How to measure it? and (3) How to ensure/
   improve the quality of produced results?

   Many metrics have been already defined to evaluate the performance of
   an AI-based techniques in regards to its NM-level objectives.  For
   example, QoS metrics (throughput, latency) can serve to measure the
   performance of a routing algorithm along with the computational
   complexity (memory consumption, size of routing tables).  The
   question is to model and measure these two antagonist types of
   metrics.  Number of true/false positives/negatives are the most basic
   metrics for network attack detection functions.  Although the first
   two questions are thus already answered even if improvement can be
   done, question (3) refers to the integration of metrics into AI
   algorithms.  Its objective is to obtain the best results which need
   to be quantified with these metrics.  Depending on the type of
   algorithm, these metrics are either evaluated in an online manner
   with a feedback loop (for example with reinforcement learning) or in
   batch to optimize a model based on a particular context (for example
   described by a dataset for machine learning).

   The problem is two-fold.  First, the performance can be measured
   through multiple metrics of different types (numerical or ordinal for
   example) and some can be constrained by fixed boundaries (like a
   maximum latency), making their joint use challenging when creating an
   AI model to resolve a NM problem.  Second, the scale metrics differ
   from each other in terms of importance or impact and can eventually
   vary on their domains.  It can be hard to precisely assess what is a
   good or bad value (as it might depend on multiple other ones) and it
   is even more difficult to integrate in an AI technique, especially
   for learning algorithms to adjust their models based on the
   performance.  Indeed, learning algorithms run through multiple
   iterations and rely on internal metrics (MAE or (R)MSE for neural
   network, gini index or entropy for decision trees, distance to an

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   hyperplane for SVMs, etc) which are not strongly correlated to the
   final metrics of the application.  For instance, a decision tree
   algorithm for classification purposes aims at being able to create
   branches with a maximum of data from the same classes and so avoid
   mixing classes.  It is done thanks to a criterion like the entropy
   index but this kind of Index does not assume any difference between
   mixing class A and B or A and C.  Assuming now that from an
   operational point of view, if A and B are mixed in the predictions is
   not critical, the algorithm should have preferred to mix and A and B
   rather than A and C even if in the first case it will produce more

   Therefore, the internal functioning of the AI algorithms should be
   refined, here by defining a particular criterion to replace the
   entropy as a quality measure when separating two branches.  It
   assumes that the final NM objectives are integrated at this stage.

   Another concrete example is traffic predictors which aim at
   forecasting traffic demands.  They only produce an input that is not
   necessarily simple to be interpreted and used by, e.g., capacity
   allocation strategies/policies.  A traditional traffic prediction
   that tries to minimize (perfectly symmetric) MAE/MSE treats positive
   and negative errors in identical ways, hence is agnostic of the
   diverse meaning (and costs) of under- and over-provisioning.  And,
   such a prediction does not provide any information on, e.g., how to
   dimension resources/capacity to accommodate the future demand
   avoiding all underprovisioning (which entails service disruption)
   while minimizing overprovisioning (i.e., wasting resources).  In
   other words, it forces the operator to guess the overprovisioning by
   taking (non-informed) safety margins.  A more sensible approach here
   is instead forecasting directly the needed capacity, rather than the
   traffic [Beg19].

   While the one above is just an example, the high-level challenge is
   devising forecasting models that minimize the correct objective/loss
   function for the specific NM task at hand (instead of generic MAE/
   MSE).  In this way, the prediction phase becomes an integral part of
   the NM, and not just a (limited and hard-to-use) input to it.  In ML
   terms, this maps to solving the loss-metric mismatch in the context
   of anticipatory NM [Hua19].

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   Another issue for statistical learning (from examples/observations)
   is mainly about extracting an estimator from a finite set of input-
   output samples drawn from an unknown probability distribution that
   should be descriptive enough for unseen/new input data.  In this
   context online monitoring and error control of the quality/properties
   of these point estimators (bias, variance, mean squared error, etc.)
   is critical for dynamic/uncertain network environments.  Similar
   reasoning/challenge applies for interval estimates, i.e., confidence
   intervals (frequentist) and credible intervals (Bayesian).

6.3.   Lightweight AI

   Network management and operations often need to be performed under
   strict time constraints, i.e. at line rate, in particular in the
   context of autonomic or self-driven networks.  Locating NM functions
   as close as possible where forwarding is achieved is thus an
   interesting option to avoid additional delays when these operations
   are performed remotely, for example in a centralized controller.
   Besides, forwarding devices may offer available resources to
   supplement or replace edge resources.  In case of AI coupled with
   network management, AI tasks can be offloaded in network devices, or
   more generally embedded within the network.  Obviously, time-critical
   tasks are the best candidates to be offloaded within the network.
   Costly learning tasks should be processed in high-end servers but
   created models can be deployed, configured, modified and tuned in

   Recent advances in network programmability ease the programming of
   specific tasks at data-plane level.  P4 [Bos14] is widely used today
   for many tasks including firewalling [Dat18] or bandwidth management
   [Che19].  P4 is prone to be agnostic to a specific hardware.
   Switches actually have particular architectures and the RMT
   (Reconfigurable Match Table) [Bos13] model is generally accepted to
   be generic enough to represent limited but essential switch
   architecture components and functionalities.  P4 is inspired by this
   architecture.  The RMT model allows reconfiguring match-action tables
   where actions can be usual ones (rewrite some headers, forward,
   drop...).  Actions are thus applied on the packets when they are
   forwarded.  Actions can also be more complex programs with some
   safeguards: no loop, resistivity... The impact on the program
   development is huge.  For example, real number operations are not
   available by default while they are primordial in many AI algorithms.

   In a nutshell, the first challenge to overcome of embedding AI in a
   network is the capacity of the hardware to support AI operations
   (architectural limitation).  Considering software equipment such as a
   virtual switch simplifies the problem but does not totally resolve it
   as, even in that case, strong line-rate requirement limits the type

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   of programs to be executed.  For example, BPF (Berkeley Packet
   Filter) programs provides a higher control on packet processing in
   OVS [Cha18] but still have some limitations, as the execution time of
   these programs are bounded by nature to ensure their termination, an
   essential requirement assuming the run-to-completion model which
   permits high throughput.

   The second challenge (resource limitation) of network-embedded AI in
   the network is to allocate enough resources for AI tasks with a
   limited impact on other tasks of network devices such as forwarding,
   monitoring, filtering... Approximation and/or optimization of AI
   tasks are potential directions to help in this area.  For instance,
   many network monitoring proposals rely on sketches and with a
   proposed well-tuned implementation for data-plane [Liu16][Yan18].
   However, no general optimized AI-programmable abstraction exists to
   fit all cases and proposals are mostly use-case centric.  Research
   direction in NM regarding this issue can benefit from propositions in
   the field of embedded systems that face the same issues.
   Binarization of neural networks is one example [Lia18].  Besides,
   distributed processing is a common technique to distribute the load
   of a single task between multiple entities.  AI task decomposition
   between network elements, edge servers or controllers has been also
   proposed [Gup18].

6.4.  AI for planning of actions

   Many tasks in network management revolve around the planning of
   actions with the purpose of optimizing a network and facilitating the
   delivery of communication services.  For example, Paths need to be
   planned and set up in ways that minimize wasted network resources (to
   optimize cost) while facilitating high network utilization (avoiding
   bottlenecks and the formation of congestion hotspots) and ensuring
   resiliency (by making sure that backup paths are not congruent with
   primary paths).  Other examples were mentioned in section 2.

   The need for planning only increases with the rise of centralized
   control planes.  The promise of central control is that decisions can
   be optimized when made with complete knowledge of relevant context,
   as opposed to distributed control that needs to rely on local
   decisions being made with incomplete knowledge while incurring higher
   overhead to replicate relevant state across multiple systems.
   However, as the scale of networks and interconnected systems
   continues to grow, so does the size of the planning task.  Many
   problems are NP-hard.  As a result, solutions typically need to rely
   on heuristics and algorithms that often result in suboptimal outcomes
   and that are challenging to deploy in a scalable manner.

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   The emergence of Intent-Based Networking emphasizes the need for
   automated planning even further.  The concept underlying "intent" is
   that it should allow users (network operators, not end users of
   communication services) to articulate desired outcomes without the
   need to specify how to achieve those outcomes.  An Intent-Based
   System is responsible for translating the intent into courses of
   action that achieve the desired outcomes and that continue to
   maintain the outcomes over time.  How the necessary courses of action
   are derived and what planning needs to take place is left open but
   where the real challenge lies.  Solutions that rely on clever
   algorithms devised by human developers face the same challenges as
   any other network management tasks.

   These properties (problems with a clearly defined need, whose
   solution is faced with exploding search spaces and that today rely on
   algorithms and heuristics that in many cases result only suboptimal
   outcomes and significant limitations in scale) make automated
   planning of actions an ideal candidate for the application of AI-
   based solutions.

   AI applications in network management in the past have been largely
   focusing on classification problems.  Examples include analysis by
   Intrusion Protection Systems of traffic flow patterns to detect
   suspicious traffic, classification of encrypted traffic for improved
   QoS treatment based on suspected application type, and prediction of
   performance parameters based on observations.  In addition, AI has
   been used for troubleshooting and diagnostics, as well as for
   automated help and customer support systems.  However, AI-based
   solutions for the automated planning of actions, including the
   automated identification of courses of action, have to this point not
   been explored much.

   A much-publicized leap in AI has been the development of Alpha Go.
   Instead of using AI to merely solve classification problems, Alpha Go
   has been successful in automatically deriving winning strategy for
   board games, specifically the game of Go which features a
   prohibitively large search space that was long thought to put the
   ability to play Go at a world class level beyond the reach of
   problems that AI could solve.  Among the remarkable aspects of Alpha
   Go is that it is able to identify winning strategies completely on
   its own, without needing those strategies to be taught or learned by
   observations assuming the system is aware of rules.

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   The challenge for AI in network management is hence, where is the
   equivalent of an Alpha Go that can be applied to network management
   (and networking) problems?  Specifically, better solutions are needed
   for solutions that automatically derive plans and courses of actions
   for network optimization and similar NP-hard problems, such as
   provided today with only limited effectiveness by controllers and
   management applications.

   Also, the evaluation of AI algorithms to derive courses of actions is
   more complex than more common regression or classification tasks.
   Actions need to be applied in order to observe the results it leads
   to.  However, contrary to game playing, solutions need to be applied
   in the real world, where actions have real effects and consequences.
   Different orientations can be envisioned.  First, incremental
   application of AI decisions with small steps can allow us to
   carefully observe and detect unexpected effects.  This can be
   complemented with roll-back techniques.  Second, formal verification
   techniques can be leveraged to verify decisions made by AI are
   maintained within safety bounds.  Third, sandbox environments can be
   used but they SHOULD be representative enough of the real world.
   After progress in simulation and emulation, recent research advances
   lead to the definition of digital twins which implies a tight
   coupling between a real system and its digital twin to ensure a
   parallel but synchronized execution.  Alternatively, transfer
   learning techniques in another promising area to be able to
   capitalize on ML models applicable on a real word system in a more
   generic sandbox environment.  It is actually also an open problem to
   make the use of AI more acceptable as highlighted in the dedicated

7.  Network data as input for ML algorithms

   Many applications of AI takes as input data.  The quality of the
   outputs of ML-based techniques are highly dependent on the quality
   and quantity of data used for learning but also on other parameters.
   For example, as modern network infrastructures move towards higher
   speed and scale, they aim to support increasingly more demanding
   services with strict performance guarantees.  These often require
   resource reconfigurations at run time, in response to emerging
   network events, so that they can ensure reliable delivery at the
   expected performance level.  Timely observation and detection of
   events is also of paramount importance for security purposes, and can
   allow faster execution of remedy actions thus leading to reduced
   service downtime.

   Thus, the challenge of data management is multifaceted as detailed in
   next subsections.

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7.1.  Data for AI-based NM solutions

   Assuming a network management application, the first problem to
   address is to define the data to be collected which will be
   appropriate to obtain accurate results.  This data selection can
   require defining problem-specific data or features (feature

   Firstly, NM has already produced a lot of methods and technologies to
   acquire data.  However, in most cases, the goal was not to support AI
   problems and lead to a mismatch.  Indeed, machine learning algorithms
   only work as desired when data to be analyzed respects properties.
   Many methods rely on vector-based distances which so supposes that
   the data encoded into the vector respects the underlying distance
   semantic.  Taking the first n bytes of a packet as vectors and
   computing distances accordingly is possible but does not embed the
   semantic of the information carried out in the headers.  For example,
   (deep) learning techniques mostly rely on vectors of (real) numbers
   as input which fits some metrics (packet/byte counts, latency,
   delays, etc) but needs some adjustment for categorical (IP addresses,
   port numbers, etc) or topological features.  Conversions are usually
   applied using common techniques like one-hot encoding or by coarse-
   grained representations [Sco11].  However, more advanced techniques
   have been recently proposed to embed representation of network
   entities rather than pure encoding [Rin17][Evr19][Sol20].  Data to
   handle can be in a schema-free or eventually text-based format.  One
   example could be the automated annotation of management intents
   provided in an unstructured textual format (policies descriptions,
   specifications,) to extract from them management entities and
   operations.  For that purpose, suitable annotation models need to be
   built using existing NER (Named Entity Recognition) techniques
   usually applied for NLP.  However, this SHALL be carefully crafted or
   specialized for network management (intent) language which indirectly
   bounces back to the challenges of AI techniques for NM specified

   Secondly, The behavior of any network is not just derived from the
   events that can be directly observed, such as network traffic
   overload, but also from events occurring outside the environment of
   the network.  The information provided by the detectors of such kinds
   of events, e.g. a natural incident (earthquake, storm), can be used
   to determine the adaptation of the network to avoid potential
   problems derived from such events.  Those can be provided by BigData
   sources as well as sensors of many kinds.  The AI challenge related
   to this task is to process large amounts of data and associate it
   with the effects that those events have on the network.  It is hard
   to determine the static and dynamic relation between the data
   provided by external sources and the specific implications it has in

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   networks.  For instance, the effect of a "flash crowd" detected in an
   external source depends on the relation of a particular network to
   such an event.  This can be addressed by AI and its particular
   application to network management.  The objective is to complement a
   control-loop, as shown in [Mar18], by including the specific AI
   engines into the decision components as well as the processes that
   close the loop, so the AI engine can receive feedback from the
   network in order to improve its own behavior.  Similar challenges are
   addressed in other domains, image processing and computer vision, by
   using artifacts for anticipating movements in object location and

7.2.  Data collection

   Once defined, the second problem to address is the collection of
   data.  Monitoring frameworks have been developed for many years such
   as IPFIX [RFC7011] and more recently with SDN-based monitoring
   solutions [Yu14][Ngu20].  However, going towards more AI for actions
   in network management supposes also to retrieve more than traffic
   related information.  Actually, configuration information such as
   topologies, routing tables or security policies have been proven to
   be relevant in specific scenarios.  As a result, many different
   technologies can be used to retrieve meaningful data.  To support
   improved QoE, monitoring of the application layer is helpful but far
   from being easy with the heterogeneity of end-user applications and
   the wide use of encrypted channels.  Monitoring techniques need to be
   reinvented through the definition of new techniques to extract
   knowledge from raw measurement [Bri19] or by involving end-users with
   crowd-sourcing [Hir15] and distributed monitoring.  Also, the data-
   mesh concept proposes to classify data into three categories: source-
   aligned, aggregate and consumer-aligned.  Source-aligned data are
   those related to the same operational domain and it is important to
   correlate or aggregate them with higher planes: management-, control-
   and forwarding plane.  An issue is the difference, not only in the
   nature of data, but in their volumes and their variety.  Some may
   change rapidly over time (for example network traffic) while other
   may be quite stable (device state).

   The collecting process requirements depend on the kind of processing.
   We can distinguish two major classes: batch/offline vs real-time/
   online processing.  In particular, real-time monitoring tools are key
   in enabling dynamic resource management functions to operate on short
   reconfiguration cycles.  However, maintaining an accurate view of the
   network state requires a vast amount of information to be collected
   and processed.  While efficient mechanisms that extract raw
   measurement data at line rate have been recently developed, the
   processing of collected data is still a costly operation.  This
   involves potentially sampling, evaluating and aggregating a vast

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   amount of state information as a response to a diverse set of
   monitoring queries, before generating accurate reports.  One
   difficult problem resides also in the availability of data as real-
   time data from different sources to be aggregated may not arrive at
   the same time requiring so some buffering techniques.  Machine
   learning methods, e.g. based on regression, can be used to
   intelligently filter the raw measurements and thus reduce the volume
   of data to process.  For example, in [Tan20] the authors proposed an
   approach in which the classifiers derived for this purpose (according
   to measurements on traffic properties) can achieve a threefold
   improvement in the query processing capability.  A residual question
   is the storage of raw measurements.  In fact, predicting the lifetime
   of data is challenging because their analysis may not be planned and
   triggered by a particular event (for example, an anomaly or attack).
   As a result, the provisioning of storage capacity can be hard.

   In parallel to the continuously increasing dynamicity of networks and
   complexity of traffic, there is a trend towards more user traffic
   processing customization [RFC8986][Li19].  As a result, fine grained
   information about network element states is expected and new
   propositions have emerged to collect on-path data or in-band network
   telemetry information [Tan20b].  These new approaches have been
   designed by introducing much flexibility and customization and could
   be helpful to be used in conjunction with AI applications.  However,
   the seamless coupling of telemetry processes with packet forwarding
   requires careful definition of solutions to limit the overhead and
   the impact of the throughput while providing the necessary level of
   details.  This shares commonalities with the lightweight AI

7.3.  Usable data

   Although all agree on the necessity to have more shared datasets, it
   is quite uncommon in practice.  Data contains private or sensitive
   information and may not be shared because of the criticality of data
   (which can be used by ill-intentioned adversaries) or due to laws or
   regulations, even within the same company.  To solve this issue,
   anonymization techniques [Dij19] can be enhanced to optimize the
   trade-off between valuable data vs sensitive information (potential)
   leakage or reconstruction.  Whatever the final user of data,
   regulations and laws impose rules on data management with potentially
   costly impact if they are not respected voluntarily or not.  Defining
   a new monitoring framework should always consider security and
   privacy aspects, for example to let any user/customer or access/
   remove its own data with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in
   EU.  The challenge resides here in the capacity of qualifying what is
   critical or private information and the capacity for an adversary to
   reconstruct it from other sources of data.  Hence AI/ML based

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   solutions will require more data but also more administrative, legal
   and ethical procedures.  Those can last long and so slow down the
   deployment of a new solution.  In addition, this requires interaction
   with experts from different domains (e.g.  AI engineer and a lawyer).
   The integration of these non-technical constraints should be
   considered when defining new data to be collected or a new technique
   to collect data.  However, knowing the final use of data is most of
   the time necessary for ethical and legal assessment which assumes
   that those considerations SHOULD be integrated from the early design
   of new AI-based solutions.

   For supervised or semi-supervised training, having a labeled dataset
   is a prerequisite.  It constitutes a major challenge as well.  One
   one hand, collectors are able to retrieve data.  On the other hand,
   those network data are typically unlabeled.  This limits application
   of ML to unsupervised learning tasks (learning from data).  Because
   manual labeling is a tedious task. one option is to leverage AI to
   guide humans.  This may also support a better generalization of a
   learned model.  Indeed, an underlying challenge is the genericity or
   coverage of the datasets.  Labels encode values of an objective
   function, the challenge posed by the design of such tools is
   tremendous since for involving a M:N relationship: 1 data type may be
   associated to M objective function values and N data types may be
   associated to 1 objective function.  As a result, most datasets used
   for research encodes a single label for a particular application like
   attack label for datasets to be used in the context of intrusion
   detection or application type for network traffic used for
   classification where the value of a single dataset could be
   capitalized in several applications.

   Again, researchers need empirical (or at least realistic) datasets to
   validate their solutions.  Unfortunately, as highlighted above,
   having such data from real deployments for various reasons (business
   secrets, privacy concerns, concerns that vulnerabilities are revealed
   by accident, raw unlabeled data, etc.) is tough.  Even if such a
   dataset is available it might not be enough to convincingly validate
   a new algorithm.  Instead of falling back to artificial testbed
   experiments or simulation, it would be useful to have the capability
   to generate datasets with characteristics that are not 100% identical
   but similar to the characteristics of one or more real datasets.
   Such synthetic networks can be used to validate new management
   algorithms, intrusion detection systems, etc.  The usage of AI (for
   example GANs) in this area [Hui22] is not yet widespread and there
   are still many concerns that deter researchers, e.g. the fear of
   leaking sensitive information from the original dataset into the
   synthetic dataset.

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8.   Acceptability of AI

   Networks are critical infrastructures.  On one hand, they SHOULD be
   operated without interruption and must be interoperable.  Networks,
   except in a lab, are not isolated which slow down innovation in
   general.  For example, changing Internet routing protocols SHOULD be
   accepted by all.  The same applies for protocol.  Even if there have
   been several versions of major protocols in use like TCP or DNS,
   there are still some security issues which cannot be patched with
   100% guarantee.  On the other hand, results provided by AI solutions
   are uncertain by nature.  The same technique applied in different
   environments can produce different results.  AI techniques need some
   effort (time and human) to be properly configured or to be
   stabilized.  For instance, reinforcement learning needs several
   iterations before being able to produce acceptable results.  These
   properties of AI techniques are thus a bit antagonist with the
   criticality of network infrastructures.  With that in mind,
   acceptability of AI by network operators is clearly an obstacle for
   its larger adoption.

8.1.   Explainability of Network-AI products

   A common issue across all Machine Learning (ML) applications is that
   they are black boxes.  This means that, after training, the knowledge
   acquired by ML models is unintelligible to humans.  As a result,
   offering hard guarantees on performance is a very challenging issue.
   In addition, complex ML models like neural networks -that often have
   more than hundreds of thousands of parameters- are very hard to debug
   or troubleshoot in case of failure.

   While this is a common issue for all applications of AI, many areas
   work well with uncertainty and the black-box behavior of AI-based
   solutions.  For instance, users accept an inherent error in
   recommender systems or computer vision solutions.

   The networking field has already produced a set of well-established
   network management algorithms and methods, with clear performance
   guarantees and troubleshooting mechanisms [Rex06][Kr14].  As such,
   improving debugging, troubleshooting and guarantees on AI-based
   solutions for networking is a must.

   AI researchers and practitioners are devoting large research efforts
   to improve this aspect of ML models, which is commonly known as
   explainability [XAI].

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   This set of techniques provides insights and, in some cases,
   guarantees on the performance and behavior of ML-based solutions.
   Understanding such techniques, researching and applying them to
   network AI is critical for the success of the field.

   There exist several ML-based methods that are human-understandable,
   although not widely used today.  For instance, [Mar20] shows a method
   for building anticipation models (prediction) that provide
   explanations while determining some actions for tuning some
   parameters of the network.  There are other challenges that SHOULD be
   addressed, such as providing explanations for other ML methods that
   are quite extended.  For instance, xNN/SVM models can be accompanied
   by Digital Twins of the network that are reversely explored to
   explain some output from the ML model (e.g., xNN/SVM).  In this
   context, there already exist several methods [Zil20][Puj21] that
   produce human-readable interpretations of trained NN models, by
   analyzing their neural activations on different inputs.

8.2.   AI-based products and algorithms in production systems

   AI-based network management and optimization algorithms are first
   trained, then the resulting model is used to produce relevant
   inferences in operation, either in management or optimization
   scenarios.  A relevant question for the success of AI-based solutions
   is: where does this training occur?

   Traditionally, AI-based models have been trained in the same scenario
   where they operate[Val17][Xu18], this is the customer network.
   However this presents critical drawbacks.  First, training an AI
   model for management and operation typically requires generating
   network configurations and scenarios that can break the network.
   This is because training requires seeing a broad spectrum of
   scenarios.  Thus, it is not feasible in production networks.  Second,
   customer networks may not be equipped with the monitoring
   infrastructure required to collect the data used in the training
   process (e.g., performance metrics).

   A more sensible approach is to train the AI-based product in a lab,
   for instance in the vendor's premises.  In the lab, AI models can be
   trained in a controlled testbed, with any configuration, even ones
   that break the network.  However, the main challenge here arises from
   the fundamental differences between the lab's network and the
   customer networks.  For instance, the topology of the lab's network
   might be smaller, etc.  As a result, there is a need for models that
   are able to generalize.  In this context, generalization means that
   models should be able to operate in other scenarios not seen during
   training, with different topologies, routing configurations,
   scheduling policies, etc.

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   In order to address this generalization problem, two main approaches
   are possible: The first one is Transfer Learning [tl1].  With this
   technique, the knowledge gained in the lab's training is used to
   operate in the customer network.  Transfer Learning still requires
   that some data from the customer is used to re-train the model (e.g.,
   accurate performance measurements).  This means that, for each
   customer network, re-training is required.  This presents important
   drawbacks, since this represents an added cost and access to customer
   data might be problematic.

   A different approach is to use Graph Neural Networks (GNN)
   [gnn1][gnn2].  GNNs are a novel type of neural network able to
   operate and generalize over graphs.  Indeed, networks are
   fundamentally represented as graphs: topology, routing, etc.  With
   GNN, vendors can train the AI model in a lab and then use the
   resulting model, as is, in different customer networks, without
   additional re-training using customer data.

8.3.   AI with humans in the loop

   Depending on the network management task, AI can automate and replace
   manual human control or it can complement human experts and keep them
   in the loop.  Keeping humans in the loop will be an important step of
   building trust in AI approaches and help ensure the desired outcomes.
   There are various ways of keeping humans in the loop in the different
   fields of AI, which could be useful for different aspects of network

   In classification tasks (e.g., detecting security breaches, malware
   or detecting anomalies), trained AI models provide a confidence score
   in addition to the predicted class.  If the confidence is high, the
   prediction is used directly.  If the confidence is too low, a human
   expert may jump in and make the decision - thereby also providing
   valuable training data to improve the AI model.  Such approaches are
   already being used in industry, e.g., to automatically label datasets
   (AWS SageMake).  Similar approaches could also be used for other
   supervised learning tasks, e.g., regression.  Still, it is an open
   challenge to keep humans in the loop in all phases of the learning

   Another field of AI is reinforcement learning, which is useful for
   taking continuous control decisions in network management, e.g.,
   controlling service scaling and placement as well as flow scheduling
   and routing over time.  Reinforcement learning agents typically
   interact with the environment (i.e., the simulated or real network)
   completely autonomously without human feedback.  However, there is a
   growing number of approaches to put human experts back into the loop.
   One approach is offline reinforcement learning, where the training

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   data does not come from the reinforcement learning agent's own
   exploration but from pre-recorded traces of human experts (e.g.,
   placement decisions that were made by humans before).  Another
   approach is to reward the reinforcement learning agent based on human
   feedback rather than a pre-defined reward function [Lee21].  Again,
   while there are first promising approaches, more work is required in
   this area.  Overall, it is an open challenge to both leverage the
   benefits of AI but keep human experts in the loop where it is useful.

9.  Security Considerations

   TODO Security

10.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no IANA actions.

11.  References

11.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC7011]  Claise, B., Ed., Trammell, B., Ed., and P. Aitken,
              "Specification of the IP Flow Information Export (IPFIX)
              Protocol for the Exchange of Flow Information", STD 77,
              RFC 7011, DOI 10.17487/RFC7011, September 2013,

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

   [RFC8986]  Filsfils, C., Ed., Camarillo, P., Ed., Leddy, J., Voyer,
              D., Matsushima, S., and Z. Li, "Segment Routing over IPv6
              (SRv6) Network Programming", RFC 8986,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8986, February 2021,

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   This document is the result of a collective work.  Authors of this
   document are the main contributors and the editors but contributions
   have been also received from the following people we acknowledge:
   Laurent Ciavaglia, Felipe Alencar Lopes, Abdelkader Lahamdi, Albert
   Cabellos, Jose Suarez-Varela, Marinos Charalambides, Ramin Sadre,
   Pedro Martinez-Julia and Flavio Esposito

   This document is also partially supported by project AI@EDGE, funded
   from the European Union's Horizon 2020 H2020-ICT-52 call for
   projects, under grant agreement no. 101015922.

Authors' Addresses

   Jérôme François
   615 rue du jardin botanique

   Alexander Clemm
   Futurewei Technologies, Inc.
   United States of America

   Dimitri Papadimitriou
   3NLab Belgium Reseach Center

   Stenio Fernandes
   Central Bank of Canada

   Stefan Schneider
   Digital Railway (DSD) at Deutsche Bahn

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